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Cowboys vs. 49ers: Each team’s X-Factor for the Wild Card matchup

The playoffs are here and the Cowboys square off against a rival with a ton of history in the San Francisco 49ers.

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are here, the matchups are set, and it’s time to fight for a Super Bowl championship. The Cowboys will square off against a historically relevant foe to start their journey to Lombardi number six; the San Francisco 49ers come to town after a hard fought overtime win put them in the dance. The 49ers are a run-oriented team with quite a bit of talent on both sides of the ball, and will present a tough challenge for the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

Their starting quarterback is banged up, but they’re so run-focused that Jimmy Garoppolo plays a complementary role to the team’s advantage. If the 49ers can assert their running attack, all they need from him is to just not make the big mistake and they can be successful. The Cowboys know they have a tough opponent coming into town but that goes without saying now that it’s playoff time, and it will take a full 60 minute effort by all three phases for the Cowboys to come away with a victory on Sunday.

You can look at all three phases of both these teams and convincingly state that there is an X-Factor on all three units. However, these two individuals, one a Cowboy, one a member of the 49ers, will have the biggest impact on Sunday’s game.

Dallas Cowboys X-Factor:

Dak Prescott

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are where legends are made. Coming off a statistically great season, Dak Prescott is looking to put that behind him and focus on the road ahead as he knows that what a quarterback is defined by is what he does in the post season. The Cowboys will need for Dak to be on point from here on out. He will need to play smart and clean, and although that seems like an obvious statement, when this Cowboys team simply just goes out there and plays their brand of football, they are a very tough team to beat.

Everything starts and finishes with Dak Prescott and this is what you play for. A chance to win it all, a chance to cement your legacy. It may be low hanging fruit at this point, but going forward Dak Prescott may be the Cowboys X-Factor every week and for good reason. Like Dak said himself at the conclusion of week 18, “it’s real” now.

San Francisco 49ers X-Factor:

Deebo Samuel

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a football player. Deebo Samuel can do it all and the 49ers use him like that. Whether it’s his traditional role as a wide receiver, or in the backfield taking hand offs, this offense goes as Samuel goes. He is dynamic and a home run threat every time he touches the football, as well as being one of the toughest players in the league. The Cowboys are absolutely going to have their hands full when he is on the field.

How the Cowboys fare containing Samuel will go a long way in determining the way this game goes. There are obviously other weapons that the 49ers have to their disposal, but Samuel feels like the heart and soul of this offense and they want to feed through him in order to get a spark and keep him involved. The Cowboys defense better be ready to go all day long because Samuel will be looking to snatch the Cowboys’ Super Bowl chances before they really even begin.